by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
Social media, in fact, the entire new marketing landscape, has introduced some new shifts. One of the key changes is that brands can now communicate directly with customers. The risk side is that customers can now communicate directly with the brand and with other consumers. This creates a different definition of ROI. It still does stand for “return on investment,” but it also is being defined on the risk side as “return on ignoring.”
Brands can no longer just ignore or filter what is being said in the social media world. They can no longer act as gatekeeper either. It’s almost impossible to control “bits” and “bytes.” By being too controlling, brands run the risk of being seen as disingenuous and trying to hide something, or as just pumping out propaganda instead of having honest communications. The Return On Ignoring is something you want to keep as low as possible. Ignoring the conversations that are going on about you shows either you don’t care or that you are out of touch. Either quality cripples a brand.
The question that should be asked more often when deciding on marketing strategies and tactics is not just, “What’s the return on investment?” but, brands also need to ask, “What’s the return on ignoring if we don’t do this?” Sometimes, it’s not what you can gain, but what you will lose. Brands need to prove they not only hear what their customers are saying, but that they are active participants in their conversations, which is about listening, being transparent, taking criticism, offering solutions, and adding real value to the talk. In other words, being real and offering real answers.
Handling this double-edged sword of more customer access takes more marketing skill than in the past. Trying to decide on what’s important, what to pay attention to, and what things your customers are really concerned about only adds to the list of what marketers need to be doing. The key is to integrate all of your marketing efforts, from push to pull and everything in between. New policies need to be implemented. New positions may be necessary (CB – Chief Blogger, etc.) And, most importantly, be open to new ways of doing things while not abandoning the core strategies that prove effective and consistently communicates the right messages to your customers. Today’s marketing is not about throwing away everything old and only doing what’s new, but it’s really about adding to the tool box and only being where your customers are. If they don’t consume a certain type of media, why be there? If they do like to get their information in a certain media vehicle, why stop doing that even if it’s old school?
The marketing arena seems to get more complicated, but it’s really not much different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s still about communicating in a way in which your customers understand both your message and your marketing vehicles. Marketers no longer have the luxury to ignore “bad press.” If they do, their Return On Ignoring rises – and that can turn into a brand crisis.